Beth Hanlon, Spanish Teacher, Oberlin High School, OFLA Vice President Elect
This past April, an email arrived from the OFLA listserv advertising a scholarship to study in Salamanca, Spain. I clicked on the link and found a very easy application. As I filled it out, I told my husband that I never win anything like this, so no worries, I won’t be going to Spain.
About a month later, an email arrived congratulating me on winning – in true Spanish style – the lottery for one of the scholarships! My only responsibility was my plane ticket. Meals and board at the Aula Magna residence hall, classes at Tía Tula Colegio de Español, travel medical insurance and transportation to and from the airport to Salamanca were all included.
Tía Tula was able to offer ten scholarships to teachers from the United States through working with the region’s (Castilla y León) government in order to educate US and Canadian teachers about Salamanca as well as to promote the programs at Tía Tula for both teachers and learners of Spanish.
I left Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on the July 4th and arrived at Madrid’s Barajas airport the next morning. At the Avanza bus stop, I was delighted to find the first two teachers from the group of fellow lottery winners. We made the trip from Madrid to Salamanca in about three hours.
I first traveled to Spain in 2001. Since then, I have remained in the Americas by studying, traveling or taking students to Mexico, Costa Rica and Argentina. Being back in Europe was almost a cultural shock with its paved roads, clean restrooms, drinkable water and consistent hot showers (not that I don’t love the challenges and beauty of developing nations!). Salamanca itself was an amazing city. It was very clean with beautiful cathedrals, an amazing Plaza Mayor that rivaled Madrid’s and the beautiful and historic University of Salamanca. It is an extremely safe city with low crime, and is very accessible by walking. The only taxis we took in Salamanca were the ones to get to and from the bus station at the beginning and the end of the trip.
Not only is Salamanca a fabulous city but also a place in Spain where the Spanish is said to be “the purest.” The salmantinos have a very pure accent, as they live in a region where Spanish originated. Another teacher in my group frequently stopped people in the street to interview them about different topics for her classes, and we were always astonished at how clearly they spoke.
We had classes for a week at the Tía Tula Colegio de Español. Tía Tula is named after Miguel de Unamuno’s novel of the same name and is accredited by the Instituto Cervantes. Tía Tula is a school that not only has programs for international students to learn Spanish but also one specifically designed for teachers who teach Spanish as a foreign language. During the week, we had classes on grammar for students, technology in the classroom and the Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language (DELE).
The courses we took were an abbreviated version of the longer course normally taken by teachers at Tía Tula. We did not have enough time to dive deep into the topics, but the ideas presented by our Tía Tula instructors, the collaboration with the teachers in our group from all over the United States as well as the immersion experience provided an awesome experience.
The learning did not stop when we were finished with our classes. Tía Tula coordinated excursions for us, including guided tours around the city, a night at a “microteatro,” a paddle boat ride on the Tormes River, tapas and wine tasting, a delicious stop at churrería and a farewell dinner on our last evening in Salamanca. There was also our free time in which we explored the streets of Salamanca for shops, local cuisine and much more!
The staff at Tía Tula was amazing! My primary contact person was Aline who coordinated everything from my bus ticket to my million questions. Once we were at Tía Tula, we met Cristina and Rosa who made sure everything from excursions to our accommodations went smoothly.
Despite the suffocating heat wave that had descended on Europe during our visit, I found this week in Salamanca to be not enough time in Spain. I changed my plane ticket to extend the visit for a weekend in Madrid with a couple of the teachers I had met at Tía Tula. We were able to visit El Rastro, la Plaza Mayor, the Reina Sofía and El Prado. We also had the opportunity to see the 11-M Monument at the Atocha Station.
This was truly a fabulous opportunity as everything from the experience with Tía Tula to the city of Salamanca was fantastic! I would highly recommend Tía Tula not just for teachers but also as a possibility for taking students to experience Spain and to take classes!
Additional resources for Spanish teachers: